Source: Washington National Guard,
By: SGT Peter Christian
WASHINGTON NATIONAL GUARDSMEN HONOR WW2 VETERAN
Sgt. Peter G. Christian
Joint Forces Headquarters Public Affairs Office, Washington National Guard
For anation that has been at war for the last twelve years, the sight is a familiar one. A police escort followed by a hearse and funeral procession. This procession isn’t for one of our young fallen warriors we might expect to see a ceremony for these days, however. This is for a man who counted himself as one of a dwindling number of surviving World War two veterans. His is a name that you may haveheard recently, a name that has become commonplace in most households. His name is Delbert Belton.
All along the approach to Greenwood Memorial Terrace, members of the Patriot Guard are lined up standing at attention beneath the US flag, rendering salute to a fallen hero as his procession slowly glides by on its way to the
memorial site. Friends and family quietly wait for the procession to arrive and the ceremony to begin.
Some are wiping tears from others faces and yet others smile warmly as they exchange memories of Belton about his habit of dancing with all the girls at the Eagle’s Club. Some reminisce about his generosity throughgivingaway cars to those who needed them after spending long hours restoring them or about the Purple Heart he earned due to a wound to his leg he suffered during the Battle of Okinawa in 1945.
Stationed very deliberately around the memorial site are three faces that show no emotion. Staff Sgt. Joshua Daly, Spc. Jon Hauger and Spc. Jacob Anderson, all of the Washington National Guard, assigned to the United States Army Spokane Area Veterans Honor Guard, making no eye contact with anyone, unless it is required of them during the ceremony. Aside from that they sit stone-faced and rigid at ceremonial parade rest whilst guarding Belton as the guests wait for the ceremony to begin.
There are many tasks that an honor guard is responsible for including, but not limited to,escorting the deceased to the memorial site, a rifle team salute and the playing of taps. But most importantly to stay vigilant at the fallen hero’s side until laid to rest.
There is a heavy weight that comes with being a member of an honor guard. This is the burden of memories, and often the burden of familiarity with the deceased. Members of an honor guard detail rarely speak of their experiences, but they never forget. Things like barbeques and holidays back home with their fallen comrades’ families, seeing pictures of their kids sent to them while they were deployed together and thinking about how light the casket is for such a burly soldier.
The citizens of the State of Washington may never hear about what these soldiers have taken with them from Delbert Belton’s ceremony but all that matters to them is that Belton’s family will remember that the honor guard, who stood watch over him in their time of need, was such a nice group of young men.